Friday 9 October 2015

Writing While Female or Black or Gay

Just want to shout out to Laine Cunningham's latest release: Writing While Female or Black or Gay.

It's available for Kindle in the US and UK, and soon to be on Smashwords.

By all appearances, publishing is an open-to-all endeavor. But for female authors and authors of color and LGBT authors, for authors who write about women or people of color or individuals in the LGBT community, entry is all but barred.  
Writing While Female or Black or Gay, written by a publishing professional with twenty years of experience, considers the depth and breadth of the problems. The issues include how the books women write are treated differently from representation through to marketing and remaindering, how authors of color are not allowed to write what is dearest to their hearts, and how LGBT authors and characters are ghettoized. 

Having written before on this blog about sexism in publishing, and having had a recent conversation with a friend who writes LGBT fiction about the state of the market, I feel this is an important book. Anything that draws attention to the problem is. And part of the problem is the lack of research into publishing bias. 

As a male friend pointed out - it's difficult to talk about sexism in publishing and literary awards, because we run the danger of making very talented female writers feel as though they only received their award for writing about a male protagonist, or for fitting the narrow margins the publishing industry seems to set for female writers, or for gay writers, or for black writers.

I agree, that's a terrible thing. But until we're writing, and publishing, on a level playing field, that suspicion will always taint success. The same for female actors, the same for female politicians. The statistical bias is so unreasonable, it can't be brushed off as a margin for error - there is a very real problem here. 

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is such an articulate author on both points: female equality and not being 'authentically African' enough for the market.  

Something I find particularly interesting about this book is that it lays bare lots about the publishing industry. What influences publishing decisions, how sales are monitored (or not monitored) and how target audiences are categorised. It's really a must-read for every author, even if you're not female, black or gay.

The book ends with a list of simple, practical actions all book lovers can undertake in order to help reverse engineer this industry of prejudice.

I’m tired of watching good authors—authors with something to say, whose minds have something to offer, who are funny and thoughtful and erudite and clever and philosophical and bold and just plain brilliant—sink before they can swim because they’re Hispanic or female or transgender. I’m exhausted with having to defend an industry that has conglomerated and corporatized its imprints and its offerings until creativity has been obliterated and profit has been fetishized. I’m pissed that kids can’t see faces that don’t have button-cute noses and sparkling blue eyes staring out from the shelves of bookstores. I’m frustrated with the ghettoization of LGBT characters, the kid gloves donned around diversity issues, the convolutions every query letter has to contain to circumvent obstacles that shouldn’t be there.

So, wrap your eyes around this and get angry - then get pro-active.

Somewhere in between the lines you might even spot a quote from yours truly.

Also, check out Laine's guest post here on Deckle-Edged.

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